The veteran director decided to go ahead with a screening of the film, starring Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jude Law, at the event on Monday (10Oct11), even though the production is not quite finished, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The move marks the first time an incomplete film has been shown at the festival since Walt Disney's 1991 movie Beauty and the Beast.
Scorsese explained to the crowd at Manhattan's Avery Fisher Hall, "There are still what are called pre-visualisations. Computer-generated people that they promise are going to be human - pretty soon, I hope. And you will see a few wonderful green screen moments where you can put in anything you want."
Festival selection committee chairman Richard Pena said, "There's only one other time, back in 1991, that we've screened a work-in-progress as part of the festival, and that was Beauty and the Beast. We're just as proud this evening to have this film."
The movie, based on Brian Selznick's novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, opens in the U.S. next month (Nov11).