Take a tour of the Queens printing plant where all of Broadway's Playbills are made

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Friday, October 20, 2023
Inside the Queens warehouse where every Playbill is printed
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Get an insider's tour of where the quintessential magazine of theater and Broadway is made.

WOODSIDE, Queens (WABC) -- Hidden inside an unassuming building in New York City is a gem of the publishing world.

Playbill, the quintessential magazine of theater and Broadway, is created and produced to the raggedy rhythm of a printing plant in Woodside, Queens. The plant can distribute more than three million Playbills per month, each issue being tailor-made for hundreds of shows.

"What Playbill truly means to me and my family - it's our lifeblood," said Playbill COO and Vice President Alex Birsh."When you are a part of something like this that has such a true connection to so many people all over the world, it's really hard not to fall in love with it."

Birsh is the third generation in his family to own and publish Playbill. His grandfather Arthur began working as a plant manager for Playbill back in 1963, eventually working his way up to company president.

Playbill published its first issue in 1884 on a single sheet for just one theater. The company started using its name on prints during the mid 1930s, and eventually invested in color presses to print Playbills in their signature yellow color. (They chose that eye-catching color because it was the cheapest to use.)

Philip Birsh, Alex's father and Playbill's CEO and president, says what makes their magazine so special is that it provides a space to celebrate those who have devoted their lives to the theater arts and their individual stories.

"It's about being part of a community that is magical," he said.

Next year, Playbill will celebrate its 140th anniversary, a remarkable milestone in an age of a declining publishing industry.

Despite the downward trend, Playbill has found ways to keep its theater community coming back for more. During the 2000s, the company released special-edition issues with anniversary covers for long-running programs like "Wicked," "Mamma Mia" and "The Lion King." In 2014, it created the first rainbow-themed prints in celebration of Pride Month.

"Playbill is a true unicorn. It is at once a relic and always of the moment," Birsh said.

"We truly are quite simply the brand of Broadway."

For more on this story, plus a sneak peek at the hottest shows hitting the Broadway stage this fall, tune in to the 2023 Broadway Backstage Fall Preview airing Sunday, Oct. 22 at 5:30 p.m. on Channel 7 and wherever you stream ABC7NY.


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