Richard Pena, the program director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, plans to step down after the 2012 New York Film Festival.
Dan Stern, president of the Film Society's board of directors, made the announcement Sunday night just before the festival-closing screening of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."
Pena, 58, has been program director and chairman of the festival selection committee at the Film Society since 1988. His final festival will be the Film Society's 50th.
"Heading into the fiftieth anniversary of the festival, it seems a perfect time for a transition, both for me personally and for the organization," Pena said. "Working at the Film Society has been beyond a dream come true, but in the years left for me, I would like to possibly explore other areas of interest, both within and beyond the cinema."
Stern said Pena will help Lincoln Center create a new educational initiative at the Film Society.
Rose Kuo, who became the Film Society's executive director last year, called Pena "a shining light" who guided the Film Society's discovery of directors like Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh, Lars Von Trier, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Hong Sang Soo.
No successor to Pena, who also teaches film at Columbia University, has been named.