Kai Wada Roath, left, pictured with Audra Wolfmann, heads up the Super Shangri-La Show at the Balboa Theater. (Courtesy photo)

Vintage horror flicks fill haunted Balboa Theatre

The Balboa Theatre might be the perfect place for a month-long Halloween celebration of creepy, cheesy, vintage horror movies — because it’s allegedly haunted.

Host Kai Wada Roath says some workers at the theater, which was built in 1926, report hearing “weird things” or having stacks of cups mysteriously knock over.

“Some employees don’t like to close the theater by themselves late at night,” Wada Roath says, “It’s pretty damned creepy.”

On Wednesdays in October, the theater is offering spooky double features, with themes ranging from Quetzalcoatl night this week (with 1982’s “Q: The Winged Serpent” and the pilot of the 1974 “Star Trek” animated series) to witchcraft, on Oct. 26, with William Shatner hamming it up in 1961’s “The Grim Reaper” followed by “Burn, Witch, Burn” (1962).

On Oct. 12, a haunted lighthouse bill includes 1959’s “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” (with one of the genre’s first graphic decapitations) and infamous B-movie director Bert I. Gordon’s 1960 “Tormented.”

Oct. 19’s extra-dimensional horror night features 1970’s “Equinox,” a surreal cult classic whose stop-motion monsters launched the career of animator Jim Danforth, and “Little Girl Lost,” a 1962 “Twilight Zone” episode about a child trapped in an alternate dimension.

The screenings are part of the “Super Shangri-La Show,” a sci-fi and horror film series (with hardcore fans) started by Wada Roath almost two years ago.

Wada Roath’s relationship with the Balboa began after he noticed rare, vintage sci-fi movie posters and lobby cards on display and offered to trade posters in his collection for movie passes.

Theater owner Adam Bergeron was especially generous: “I was seeing movies and taking groups of friends to the Balboa for two years straight,” Wada Roath says.

Wada Roath makes each event more than just a movie screening. For a recent Bigfoot double feature, his collection of plaster casts of alleged Sasquatch footprints was on view.

At another show, super fan Audra Wolfmann appeared in costume as a sexy nurse, requiring audience members to sign a “fear release form” in case they were scared to death by “The Legend of Hell House” (1973).

Wolfmann reprises her role Oct. 28 in a Friday show with a haunted house theme, featuring “13 Ghosts” (1960) directed by William Castle, a pioneer of horror theater gimmicks (including the use of medical waivers), and the 1977 psychedelic Japanese film “Hausu.”

While the program’s last screening doesn’t fall on Halloween, Wada Roath is confident the night will be creepy.

“Everyone forgets Halloween is the last day the spirits are partying,” Wada Roath says, “They’re active for three days prior.”

Super Shangri-La Show
Where: Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in October
Tickets: $11
Contact: www.cinemasf.com/balboa
Note: There’s also a Halloween show at 10 p.m. Oct. 28.

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