Today, the work of Orson Welles seems a safe, even commercial, choice for a repertory cinema. Anyone who knows his career understands, however, that it wasn’t always that way. As a director, Welles was frequently unable to complete (or even begin) his favored projects, and he owes his reputation mostly to a handful of box-office flops, including one film that many critics consider both a travesty and a masterpiece: RKO trimmed almost an hour from The Magnificent Ambersons (at 7 p.m. Friday, July 9; 1:30 and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, July 10; and 6:45 p.m. Sunday, July 11), yet the film retains some of its director’s grand design. The retrospective’s featured film, The Third Man (daily, to July 29), was actually directed by Carol Reed, although the shadowy Cold War tale clearly shows the influence of supporting player Welles. Also included are such now-venerated (and widely influential) commercial duds as The Lady From Shanghai (at 6:45 p.m. Friday, July 2, and 1 and 8:55 p.m. Monday, July 5), Touch of Evil (daily from Saturday, July 3, to Thursday, July 6), and of course Citizen Kane (daily from Friday, July 9, to Monday, July 11), which regularly tops lists of the greatest films of all time. Of the series’ other eight movies, the least-screened in recent years is the one that was, ironically, Welles’ most profitable: The Stranger (at 9:25 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, and 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 30), a credible but not especially Wellesian thriller. The series runs through Tuesday, July 13, at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)