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Print in Lights

King Displays Goes Broadway

By Thomas Franklin

Digital signage is increasingly combined with traditional printed signage. A large-scale example of this is Times Square in New York City, NY. Printed building wraps are displayed throughout the area, but digital billboards also make an appearance. Despite this advancement, print is still a viable solution for many advertisers looking to promote everything from products to plays in the square. King Displays, based in New York City, NY, is one such sign shop catering to this audience.


A mainstay of this print provider is signage for the Times Square theater business. King Displays does 80 percent of the theatrical displays. Collaborating with some of Broadway’s powerhouse theaters is demanding work. “They work on a production for six months, but then hand us the graphics files on Thursday and want final prints—marquees, banners, under-slings, house boards, everything—by Monday,” says Wayne Sapper, owner, King Displays. “It’s definitely a challenge, but with the equipment we have, the speed and the quality, we get it done.”


The company employs 14 people and in addition to production, it does all the finishing in house as well, both to save time and to ensure quality control. “You can make a beautiful sign and the finishing can make it look like garbage,” explains Sapper.


A wide range of large format digital printers including an EFI VUTEk QS3200, a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex XL1500—formerly the XL Jet, the latex-based HP Designjet L65500, the HP Designjet L25500, a trio of HP Designjet Z6100s, and an HP Designjet Z3100, among others are used to create signage.


The QS3200 is used for the marquees, especially backlit. The key with backlit signage for Times Square is to make it look as good in the day as it does at night when it’s illuminated. “Because the QS3200 places three layers of ink, we lay down 60 percent in the first layer, a diffusing white in the middle, and 80 percent on the top. During the day, you see the first layer and at night you get the effect,” explains Sapper.


One of the trickier aspects inherent in producing signs for the theater business is the duration of a show—flops can be tossed from a theater in a few weeks, while hit productions stretch out for years. Most of the customers expect the signage to last at least a year. But, Sapper says if the show is popular, the theater orders new signs anyway—to tout favorable press. Award season also brings the company a fresh opportunity to create signage to advertise nominations and later, actual awards. “There’s a good amount of turnover in the displays even when a show runs long,” he admits.


In addition to the theater business, the company offers a range of services including vehicle wraps; electrical, magnetic, and dimensional signs; cut vinyl; window clings; aluminum signs; retail point of purchase displays; fine art reproduction; and archival-grade canvas prints.


The company built and sustained its business based on a reputation for being cutting edge. “We are not a billboard shop. We print on anything—Duratrans, fabrics, wool, wood, Plexiglas, aluminum, and steel,” explains Sapper.


It is this willingness to print on anything that pushes King Displays to continue providing top-quality printed signage for the Broadway industry. Despite an increasing presence of digital billboards and LCD screens, Sapper believes his clients will never fully do away with print. You can read more about his thoughts on the pull between digital and print signage in July issue of Digital Output.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Jun2010, Digital Output
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