The Rochester Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival was established under the auspices of The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley and The Rochester Lesbian and Gay Political Caucus. The first festival included 18 programs and 100 films and videos and focused upon celebrating and documenting the past and present of the global Lesbian and Gay community. Each show attracting almost 90% of the theatre’s capacity so the festival founders knew they started a vital and exciting community event. The Rochester LGBT community had received their first taste of what would become the largest annual cultural event in our community.
The festival’s second year brought new and innovative changes. The Third Coast Call for Work was introduced, a distinct entry category to highlight the work of regional film and video makers, as was sign-language interpretive services of film programs for the deaf and hearing-impaired community making Rochester one of only a handful of festivals in North America to offer this essential service.
By 1995, the Film Festival had grown dramatically. More than 100 films and videos were exhibited and the first ever closing night gala reception at George Eastman House Museum became an annual celebratory conclusion to the festival week. Archival Night at the Dryden Theatre was also introduced in 1995, featuring classic films of gay cinema’s past from the George Eastman House Museum Motion Picture Archives. A third venue, The University of Rochester, allowed the Festival to reach a younger audience. An enthusiastic and diverse audience of more than 4,000 pressed to attend often sold out films.
As a result of such rapid growth and support, the Rochester Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival successfully incorporated in 1996 as an independent, not-for-profit 501(c) 3 corporation and the festival was named ImageOut. After four years, ImageOut joined the ranks of the ever-growing national Lesbian and Gay Film Festival community, rivaling many festivals in cities both comparable to and larger than Rochester.
ImageOut, a community-based volunteer organization, has served as a major vehicle in promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender visibility and an understanding of our lives. Its reach has extended to thousands within the greater Rochester gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community and beyond to the general population of the entire Western New York region.
Each record-breaking year brought more programs and larger audiences to the Film Festival. From two venues in 1993 to five venues in 2001, ImageOut not only expanded the number of seats available, but also areas of the city where films are screened. The addition of The Cinema Theatre and Nazareth College allowed ImageOut to reach out to the East and the thriving community of the South Wedge. The expansion of the festival into the Little Theatre’s larger theatre #1 on East Ave. was a hugely successful part of The 2001 Film Festival. We were able to offer almost 4000 more seats for programs at The Little Theatre. 2001’s record attendance of 8500 and 43 different programs of film and video solidified ImageOut’s position as the largest lesbian and gay film festival in Upstate New York and the second largest lesbian and gay film festival in all of New York State.
It is an exciting year for ImageOut, as we celebrate our 15th year, a significant milestone in the history of the Festival and for the LGBTQ+ community in the Rochester region. Over the past 15 years, ImageOut has grown to the largest film festival of any kind in NY State, outside of New York City. We continue to make great strides in putting Rochester on the map with national and international filmmakers, making it easier for us to obtain higher quality, in-demand films for our annual festival.
In 2009, ImageOut added screenings to the southern part of Monroe County at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Ingle Auditorium with the help of OUTspoken, the RIT LGBTQ+ student organization.
In 2012, ImageOut celebrates it’s 20th Festival Year. The organization changes its tagline from “The Rochester Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival” to “The Rochester LGBT Film Festival” to better reflect the diversity of our community and of the films we are screening.
In 2017, ImageOut celebrates it’s 25th Festival Year. The 2017 Film Festival screens 39 programs at The Little Theatre and The Dryden Theatre at George Eastman Museum. The 25th Annual Festival includes a World Premiere, 3 East Coast Premieres, and 8 New York State Premieres. ImageOut is also selected by the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley to serve as Honorary Grand Marshal of ROC Pride.
In 2020, due to the global pandemic, ImageOut innovated to continue to safely build community and keep the Film Festival alive. We held a Drive-In Film Screening in the Village Gate parking lot, a festival opening toast and happy hour via Zoom, an ImageOut Read Out via Facebook, an outdoor popcorn pickup at The Little, and screened our film festival virtually! We brought you everything you expect from ImageOut safely and right to the comfort of your own home.
ImageOut celebrates it’s 30th year with our 2nd annual First Cut Spring Film Festival in April/May, a special ROC Pride Week ImageOut Extra Screening in July, and our 30th anniversary Fall Film Festival in October – as well as countless special programs and events throughout the year. Both festivals are presented in hybrid format with most films screened in-person at The Little and Dryden Theatres, as well as many available virtually via Eventive. Our celebration culminated in November with our Pearl Jubilee: 30th Anniversary Charity Gala celebration at The Century Club of Rochester.