THE MOVIE industry, after surprising itself with a summer box-office comeback led by 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'Superman II,' is betting on more serious stuff to carry it through the back-to-school climate of fall and into December, when the big studios lock horns again for the winter holiday trade.

The new season fare is varied and ambitious, with two hit plays coming to the screen ("On Golden Pond" and "Whose Life Is It Anyway?") and two best sellers ("Ragtime" and "Mommie Dearest"); new films by old-timers George Cukor and Billy Wilder and a musical production from Francis Ford Coppola.

Big name performers are well represented, too, with James Cagney out of retirement for "Ragtime," and new vehicles for Robert De Niro, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Richard Dreyfuss, Katharine Hepburn, Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda and Fred Astaire.

A number of actors, in fact, have not one but two movies scheduled for the fall season: John Belushi, "Continental Divide" and "Neighbors"; Treat Williams, "Prince of the City" and "Pursuit"; Robert Duvall, "True Confessions" and "Pursuit"; Burt Reynolds, "Paternity" and "Sharkey's Machine"; Albert Finney, "Looker" and "Shoot the Moon"; Bernadette Peters, "Heartbeeps" and "Pennies From Heaven"; Diane Keaton, "Reds" and "Shoot the Moon"; and Jane Fonda, "On Golden Pond" and "Roll-Over."

One goal of the industry just now is to keep people going to the movies this fall with the enthusiasm they showed this summer. Last autumn was a season notable for the severe drama "Ordinary People" and very little else. As this sampler suggests, Hollywood is hoping this season will be different.

September

"Prince of the City." Dir. Sidney Lumet. Gritty tale of New York cop vs. New York corruption. Starring Treat Williams. "Gallipoli." Dir. Peter Weir of "Breaker Morant." Saga of Australian lads in World War I. With Mel Gibson, Mark Lee. "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Dir. Karel Reisz. Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons as the Victorian lovers of John Fowles' novel, and as the contemporary actors portraying them in a movie-within-a-movie added by screenwriter Harold Pinter. With Leo "Rumpole" McKern. "Mommie Dearest." Dir. Frank Perry. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. Daughter Christina, who grew up to tell all, is portrayed by Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid. "Raggedy Man." Dir. Jack Fisk. Sissy Spacek faces the perils of single parenthood during World War II. "Continental Divide." Dir. Michael Apted. John Belushi is an investigative reporter, Blair Brown the ornithologist he climbs the Rockies for. Written by Lawrence Kasdan ("Empire," "Raiders," "Body Heat"). "Circle of Two." Dir. Jules Dassin. Richard Burton, as an artist on the other side of middle age, falls in love with a teen-ager played by Tatum O'Neal. "True Confessions." Dir. Ulu Grosbard, from the novel by John Gregory Dunne. Two brothers, one a detective and the other a priest, are involved in the same notorious murder. Starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro. "So Fine." Ryan O'Neal is a college professor who leaves all that for the garment business, and revolutionary jeans with transparent back pockets. With Jack Warden. "Southern Comfort." Dir. Walter Hill. A National Guard unit in Louisiana is ambushed. With Powers Booth and Keith Carradine.

October

"Tattoo." A suspense story starring Bruce Dern as an artist with a compulsion to leave his mark on Maud Adams. "Rich and Famous." Dir. George Cukor. Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset are the writer-pals in this remake of "Old Acquaintance". "Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man." Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring Anouk Aimee and Ugo Tognazzi. "Zoot Suit." Dir. Luis Valdez. The musical about flamboyant Chicano hipsters fighting for their dignity in Los Angeles of 1942. "Looker." Dir. Michael Crichton. Science fiction meets the fashion model industry in a saga of murder and transistors. Starring Albert Finney and James Coburn, with Susan Dey and Leigh Taylor-Young. "All the Marbles." Peter Falk as amanager of lady wrestlers. "Paternity." Burt Reynolds hires a woman to bear his child. Also starring Beverly D'Angelo. "Halloween II." John Carpenter's sequel to the most profitable independent production of all time. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to be terrified by The Shape, as do Donald Plesance and Charles Cyphers.

November

"Only When I Laugh." Dir. Neil Simon. Marsha Mason and Kristy McNichol star as a mother and daughter on the outs with each other in this adapatation of Simon's play "The Gingerbread Lady." "Pursuit." Robert Duvall and Treat Williams in a tale of the trail of the now legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper, who took the money and jumped. "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?" Dir. John Badham. Richard Dreyfuss as a terminally ill patient arguing the right to have his own plug pulled.

December

"Ragtime." Dir. Milos Forman. The movie version of E.L. Doctorow's curious novel, in which historical figures such as Stanford White and Emma Goldman meet Everyman on the street. James Cagney, Mary Steenburgen, Howard Rollins, Elizabeth McGovern. Norman Mailer plays White. "Reds." Dir. Warren Beatty. Beatty, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in an ambitious tale of an American reporter caught up in World War I and the Russian Revolution. "On Golden Pond." The movie version of Ernest Thompson's play about a cantankerous old charmer, his no-nonsense wife and their whiny daughter. Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda star. "Neighbors." Dir. by John Alvidson from the Thomas Berger novel. A comedy about the people next door starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty. "Roll-Over." A thriller starring Kris Kristofferson as a big-time money man and Jane Fonda as an ex-movie star turned corporation chief. "Heartbeeps." Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as robots who leave their factory to raise a family. "One From the Heart." Francis Ford Coppola's musical romance about two couples and a long weekend. Starring Frederick Forrest, Teri Garr, Nastassia Kinski and Raul Julia. "Shoot the Moon." Dir. Alan Parker. Albert Finney and Diane Keaton are married to each other, when along comes Karen Allen. "Modern Problems." Chevy Chase stars as an air traffic controller with supernatural powers and women trouble. "Absense of Malice." Dir. Sydney Pollack. Paul Newman as a union leader who crosses paths with an investigative reporter played by Sally Field. "Taps." Dir. Harold Becker. George C. Scott and Timothy Hutton caught up in trouble at military school. "Four Friends." Dir. Arthur Penn from a screenplay by Steve Tesich. Saga of three boys and a girl from childhood to Vietnam. With Jodi Thelen, Craig Wasson, Michael Huddleston, Jim Matzler. "Pennies From Heaven." A music salesman tries to make the words to his songs come true in this musical starring Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken. "Sharkey's Machine." Burt Reynolds directs himself as a detective working the seamy side of the street. "Ghost Story." Members of a men's club are haunted by a murder committed years before. Starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Patricia Neal. "Conan." Arnold Schwarzenegger is the barbarian, James Earl Jones is not. "Deathtrap." A mystery with Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon.