The King of Broadway Graphics

If you’ve strolled through the New York City Theatre District and gazed at all the marquees, billboards, wall displays, flags and banners, then chances are you’ve seen the creative handiwork of King Displays Inc. The Manhattan, NY-based graphics house now outputs about 90 percent of all the Broadway show signage being produced.

King Displays opened for business 71 years as a photo shop; farming out film and negatives to a contractor. In the 1990s the company decided to bring the printing in-house, and in that time, has expanded into wide-format digital printing.

“We are always ready to deliver any job, and we are consistently able to meet our clients’ expectations for top image quality in the fastest turnaround time,” said Wayne Sapper, president of King Displays Inc. “Most of our clients provide us artwork, but the jobs themselves can have as little as five working days to print, install, and be ready to go by opening night. Sometimes it can get a little hectic, but we always get it done before the curtain goes up.”

“We will like to keep our clients in the loop throughout the entire project, from its inception to its completion. It is our goal to give them everything they need to meet their deadlines and to ensure that are totally satisfied when the work is complete,” he said.

Sapper explained that theatre jobs can be printed on a wide variety of substrates and media, from vinyl to backlit to fabrics. He reported that color is a critical element when working with different forms of media. “Matching colors across various media and applications is one of the things that we are famous for. Consistency can be difficult thing to achieve. Some types of signage, such as banners, are really meant to be viewed in daylight, while others, like backlit signage, are viewed in evening hours. So getting the color and quality of the image right is essential,” he said.

Currently the shop has in house a number of HP printers including an HP Scitex XL1500. The company recently relocated to a new two-floor location at 333 West 52nd Street. With the move they purchased and installed the EFI VUTEk QS3200 flatbed and roll-to-roll UV printer with the heavy duty winder and vacuum table.

“The EFI VUTEk QS3200’s HDP outputs eye-popping images with its print resolutions of up to 1080 dpi, four- or six-color imaging and a special seventh channel with white ink. The white ink option has helped us add new revenue streams,” Sapper reported.

“So far it’s been an amazing piece of equipment for us. We are able to offer different types of jobs for the theatres that we weren’t able to do before. It has opened up a whole new design factor for us. It has also increased the amount work of we can push through the shop at new levels of speed, while still producing the highest quality signs, point of purchase displays, banners and other superwide applications,” he said
Sapper said that the VUTEk printer came in handy for a number of recent jobs they did for the trio of Disney musicals currently on Broadway: Mary Poppins, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

“We utilized the QS3200 to print this graphic for Disney which was 44 feet wide by 10 feet tall display for the lobby of the Minskoff Theatre where The Lion King is currently running. The VUTEk was able to print on three different layers on clear pressure sensitive material. We printed the background of the image and then we printed the next layer in white and then we did a double hit of the image to make the characters in the image look opaque. The graphic featured elements from The Lion King, Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid.”

They also used to QS3200 to produce a number of outdoor backlit marquees as well as lobby graphics for Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theatre. “We output some of the graphics with holographic effects. We printed a number of them on reflective mirror type media. It gave a cool Las Vegas glitzy image; giving the viewer the effect that they were in the scene,” he explained.

The output provider faces a host of unique challenges because of the work it does and working with Disney presented even bigger ones. “Dealing with the creative people at Disney; we have take things to another level. Lets’ face it, they kind of set standard for graphics and special effects. They are creative geniuses. They want things that are technically different and they want it right away. They want to see samples with host of different kind of looks. Sometimes it can be a bear but that’s what we are here for: service and quality, ” he said.

Sapper added that the printer gives them superior image quality on both rigid and flexible substrates up to 126-inches wide and up to two-inches thick, with changeover rates from flexible to rigid substrates in less than a minute. “Having the VUTEk brings us into a whole different marketplace. We just completed a big job for Amtrak where we printed the job right on Gatorboard. It helped save us on finishing costs as well as valuable time, so we could simultaneously work on a number of other projects,” he concluded.