The old Cheverly theater once was the film showcase of Prince George's county. Eventually it sank into a porno screen, and finally gave up altogether. But it has been given new life by the county as a performing arts center, with classic films and puppet shows when it is not otherwise being used.

Nonprofit groups are being encouraged to rent the theater for a nominal fee, and the playhouse staff will print the playbills, run the box office, and offer technical assistance. While this is getting underway, the playhouse is showing a series of free films on Tuesdays and Fridays through August. This week's bill is "The Golden Age of Comedy" on Tuesday, "The Public Enemy" and "Little Caesar" on Friday. August 23 is "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"; August 26. "Of Mice and Men", August 30, "Lord of the Flies"; and September 2, "Brian's Song." For those of us who still remember the first film we saw at the Cheverly Theater ("Wake of the Red Witch" in 1948), it is the revival of the theater even more than the movies that makes us want to watch this space.

Publick Playhouse. Landover Road at Annapolis Road, Cheverly. Tuesday and Friday evernings through September 2, 7.30 p.m. Free. 277-1710.