Sony bosses have fired back at criticism levelled at them by President Barack Obama and Sean Penn over their decision to cancel the Christmas Day (25Dec14) release of Seth Rogen's comedy The Interview, insisting they had no choice.

President Obama called the move "a mistake" in his end-of-year press conference at The White House on Friday (19Dec14) and Penn suggested the decision to bow to the pressure of cyber threats sends the wrong message to potential terrorists hoping to bring Hollywood and big business in America to its knees.

Now Sony executives have responded with a statement, insisting the decision not to move forward with the theatrical release of The Interview was made "as a result of the majority of the nation's theatre owners choosing not to screen the film."

They add, "Let us be clear, the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theatres, after the theatre owners declined to show it. Without theatres, we could not release it in the theatres on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

"After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."

On Friday, Fbi officials confirmed the hackers who stole Sony database details and published private emails and unreleased movies online were linked to the North Korean regime.

The film features the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, the Sony bosses have hired top crisis management guru Judy Smith to help them deal with the fall-out from their decision to scrap the film's release.

Smith, who was the inspiration for Kerry Washington's character in hit Tv drama Scandal, worked as deputy press secretary to President George H.W. Bush before starting her own crisis management firm, Smith & Company. Her past clients have included Monica Lewinsky and actor Wesley Snipes.