Andrew J. Benya, 56, an executive of a Washington-based movie theater chain who was active in charitable work, died of cancer Thursday at Holy Cross Hospital.

Mr. Benya moved to this area 17 years ago and joined Showcase Theatres, which owns and operates more than 40 movie houses in the metropolitan area. He was director of theater operations and assistant to the president of the company at the time of his death.

He had served as coordinator of a program that furnished free movies to children and raised money for muscular dystrophy research. In recognition of nearly 10 years work, he received a 1974 award of appreciation from the Muscular Dystrophy Association's greater Washington chapter.

A native of Uniontown, Pa., he had lived in Memphis, New Jersey, and Baltimore before moving here.

Mr. Benya was a member of the Variety Club and the Pioneers Club.

He is survived by his wife, Irene G., a daughter, Susie, and two sons, Joseph and Jerry, all of the home in Silver Spring; three other sons, John Andrew, of Gaithersburg, James, of Forestville, and Jeffrey, of Laurel, and three sister, Katie Murry and Mary, both of Uniontown, and Susan Bennet, of Rosedale, Md.