Construction is expected to begin soon on a $1.2-million, 300-seat motion picture theater at Lincoln Center. The theater, to be named the Walter Reade Theater after a prominent New York film exhibitor, is scheduled to open in 1989.

"This means more to us than anything since the Film Society of Lincoln Center was formed," said Alfred R. Stern, president of the prestigious film society, in accepting a Walter Reade Foundation check from Mrs. Walter Reade Sr. at a Lincoln Center reception recently. Reade is the mother of the late film exhibitor, who died in 1973.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center, sponsor of the New York Film Festival and other special film events held periodically at the center, was founded in 1969. However, the society has remained the only Lincoln Center constituent without a permanent home. The other major arts institutions resident at the center include the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Center Theater Company.

"A home at Lincoln Center signifies a general uplift for film, not just to New York but throughout the country," Stern said. "Now, we will have a place to attract the public on a regular basis, and to show film as the art form we believe it could be."

Stern, also the recently named chairman of the board of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), said the society will undertake a fund-raising drive to supplement the Reade gift by as much as $2 million. He said an endowment is needed so that the new theater can be operated year-round.

Further, he said the theater would be programmed to provide a prominent showcase for American independent films, enabling the society to "expand our mission."

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