“Life of Pi,” the upcoming 3D outing from helmer Ang Lee, will open the 2012 New York Film Festival prior to its 20th Century Fox release in November.

It’ll mark the first return to NYFF for Lee since his pic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” closed the Gotham event in 2000. His movie “The Ice Storm” opened the fest in 1997.

A 3D film has never before been presented as part of the NYFF main slate, a tightly curated lineup that usually encompasses between 25 and 30 films. Last year Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” was presented in 3D as a “surprise screening” that wasn’t part of the festival’s central lineup.

Last week NYFF set Robert Zemeckis’ Denzel Washington topliner “Flight” as the 2012 edition’s closing-night offering. The fest’s remaining slate remains to be set.

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This year’s festival reps the 50th outing for an event that launched in 1963. Upcoming lineup also marks the last from longtime program director Richard Pena, who’s helmed the selection of films for 25 years. No replacement for Pena has yet been named.

“Life of Pi” will open the fest on Sept. 28, with the 17-day event skedded to run through Oct. 14.