Sony Pictures executives have officially pulled plans to release Seth Rogen and James Franco's controversial new comedy The Interview after hackers threatened the safety of filmgoers.

The movie, about two Americans who set out on a mission to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was due to hit cinemas in the U.S. and Canada on Christmas Day (25Dec14), but its release was thrown into doubt this week (begs15Dec14) after the cyber criminals responsible for stealing material from Sony's databases threatened to carry out 9/11-style terrorist attacks on any theatres screening the film.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Dhs) insisted there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres within the United States," but the worrying missive prompted the cancellation of The Interview's New York premiere on Thursday (18Dec14), while Rogen and Franco scrapped all of their promotional appearances.

On Wednesday (17Dec14), five of America's top movie theatre chains announced they would not be screening the comedy in light of the security threats, and now Sony bosses have completely axed The Interview's release.

A statement released by Sony representatives reads: "In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

"Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale - all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like.

"We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

Rogen and Franco have yet to comment on the latest development in the scandal.

Activists calling themselves the Guardians of Peace have claimed responsibility for the Sony hack attack, which took place in November (14) and led to a number of stolen files featuring celebrities' salaries and personal information and whole movies being made available to the public. They vowed to continue releasing the private material unless studio bosses scrapped plans to release The Interview.