Outfest has postponed its Legacy Awards ceremony to sometime in 2024, paused all programming for the time being, and implemented “leaves” for the majority of staff, saying the financial climate of the entertainment and media industry has had a severe impact on the nonprofit organization.
In a statement released Thursday, the board of directors of the LGBTQ+ organization said it has decided “to scale back our operations for the next several months,” but didn’t provide any details about Outfest’s financial situation.
This announcement follows news in September that Outfest had laid off several people amid efforts by some employees to form a union. Executive director Damien Navarro also said he was taking a 45-day leave of absence. The nonprofit’s board said the layoffs were not related to the efforts to unionize.
Moving forward, Outfest said its goal is to step back and focus on creating a financial model that “prioritizes programming that serves our community, a supportive environment for our staff, and ultimately protects the organization.”
The board wants to ensure that Outfest endures and thrives for another 40 years in its core mission to champion LGBTQIA+ storytellers and create opportunities, the board said in the statement.
The Board also said it “proudly supports” the right of staff to unionize, as they recently initiated, “and has provided the staff with a letter recognizing their union, including having reached out to find a date to meet.”
Sources familiar with Outfest’s situation had questioned the assertion that layoffs and recent union activity within the org were unrelated, amidst ongoing tensions between the Board and the 12-person group of workers looking to be voluntarily recognized as Queer Filmworkers United, Deadline reported.
Founded in 1982 by UCLA students, Outfest advances LGBTQ+ equality by crafting, disseminating, and safeguarding LGBTQ+ narratives on film. Over its 40-year history, it has presented thousands of cinematic works from around the world, serving as a vital conduit for the representation and inclusion of LGBTQ+ community members in the cinematic arena.
Outfest orchestrates several annual events, such as the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival and the Outfest Fusion LGBTQ People of Color Film Festival, which are instrumental in underscoring and celebrating the diverse tapestry of queer storytelling and talent.
Outfest’s largest fundraiser, the Legacy Awards, was scheduled for Oct. 22 at NeueHouse in Hollywood with Shirley MacLaine and Trace Lysette being recognized.