If you’re environmentally concious, this post may make you puke.

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b8833010536b4ab42970b.jpgTake a look at this picture I snapped over at New World Stages today.  In that mongo bin are unused Playbills from only 2 shows that closed last weekend.  And they were Off-Broadway shows, so their houses were small.  Imagine the size of the bins at the Shubert!

I wrote about the other environment eater, the “stuffer”, a few months ago, but as far as paper is concerned, nothing compares to the Playbill problem.

And closing shows are only one small part of the issue.  Unused Playbills are tossed frequently on running shows, since the Playbills are updated every week because of the amount of cast and staff changes, etc. (The New World playbills were recycled, FYI, and I assume the other theaters do the same).  It’s hard to gauge inventory requirements, so over-supplying becomes a necessity to make sure the Producers are happy, because we can’t not have a program for a customer (It’s actually an AEA requirement).

You know what would really make me happy?  Saving trees and saving bucks (Producers pay for Playbill, even though we have no choice but to use them.  It’s in our theater agreements.  We couldn’t make our own program and sell our own advertising even if we wanted to. Yet another possible revenue stream stripped away . . . after all, it is our customers in those seats, reading that Playbill, isn’t it?)

Playbill and the League are on the case, so look for some changes in the next 12 months.  What could they be?  Let’s give them some ideas.  Here are a few of mine:

  • Could we allow customers to leave their Playbills for the next patron (we could put a sleeve on the back of the seat in front of the customer, and the Playbill could be like an airline magazine.  Take it if you want, leave it if you don’t.)
  • Could we charge $1 for the Playbills and use the money to plant trees to offset the paper we’re burning through (in the same way that trucking companies like Clark Transfer dedicate monies to offsetting carbon emissions)
  • What about removing the casting information from the Playbills altogether so they don’t have to be reprinted as often, and using new inserts each week or each day (London doesn’t even have Playbills).
  • Issue one Playbill for every two people or have the ushers add “share your playbills” messages to their “be seated” speeches.

I bet you’ve got even better ideas.  Let’s hear ’em.

  • Joseph Fosco says:

    Interesting that I just read another article titled The Death Of The Theatre Program at http://www.artsjournal.com/lies/2009/01/the-death-of-the-theatre-progr.html. The author has quite a few ideas that surpass the current Theatre Program.

  • besides checking out the cast listings, i’m not really interested in any of the other content in the playbill. but it makes me wonder: why does playbill have producers locked into using them exclusively? and how much is that affecting my ticket price?

  • Manda Martin says:

    I work for an off-Broadway company where we’re [thankfully] not bound to printing Playbills, but the issues you bring up are the same whether it’s a three-page black and white program or a glossy playbill–it’s always a balance between cost/volume and actual need. I for one rarely keep programs from shows that aren’t one-page cast lists.
    I think trying to recycle within the run is the most expedient way forward, and that any AEA regulations stipulating actual print numbers should be thrown out. Many off Broadway houses I’ve been to make programs available without making them compulsory, and encourage their patrons to return them after the show.

  • Sarah Packard says:

    I believe you mean “environmentally.” 🙂 Good point, however…maybe we could make Playbills out of recycled paper to begin with, too? (Granted, that’d probably be more expensive, but…)

  • Mary says:

    The best Playbills I’ve ever been given are the ones that have information pertaining to the show. Only. I won’t lie, I rarely ever read anything else that is in the Playbill – articles, pictures, whatever. All I care about it the show and the cast. I know the other stuff has to be there (right?); I just wish it didn’t have to be.
    But I do actually keep all my Playbills. Even when I see a show multiple times. They’re all in a storage case, so at least I’m not throwing it on the ground.

  • Ken, great ideas, we need to figure a way to do the same with tickets. Think of all the tickets that are thrown in the trash each year after the show! Is a printed ticket really necessary?
    Terrell Theen

  • sadf says:

    You’re disgusting to even try and think of making additional monies off of Playbills!
    You make enough as it is working off the backs of talented performers who pour their blood and sweat into your “product” every night only to be rewarded with salary caps. You, on the other hand, have no talent and can make endless amounts of money with a hit.
    Not to mention the fact that the Playbill is often a souvenir to those of us who have to save up for months to see one of your shows! I don’t want someone elses nasty used Playbill. I want to take my very own and read it cover to cover, maybe get an autograph or two and then put it with my collection.

  • Dan Kochanowicz says:

    What if Playbill made the show info available through an iPhone app or through the Amazon Kindle? Or, for that matter, why not publish the info on-line? Experienced theatre goers (who don’t necessarily care about a paper keepsake program) could simply check out the info at Playbill.com before heading to the theatre.

  • Landon Parks says:

    Theatre owners and producers do not pay to have Playbill print their theatre programs. In fact, Playbill PAYS the theatre owner for permission to provide the Playbills. Playbill in turn makes their money from the ad space they sell in the program. The more shows they provide Playbills too, the more they can charge for ad space, the more Playbill makes.
    Our theatre uses programs not only as a source of audience interaction (biographies, show information, etc) – but we also get a fairly good amount of money from selling ad space.
    Programs/Playbills are going no-where anytime soon. We do our part in keeping things green. We never order a full house of playbills, and we verbally encourage audience members to turn in their program at the end only if they don’t want it, and we then reuse them.
    Landon Parks
    Artistic Director
    Bloomington Repertory Theatre

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