Sony Pictures has cancelled the Dec. 25 theatrical release of The Interview, saying it made the decision after most exhibitors slated to screen the film decided not to in the wake of threats to attack theatres.

In a statement, Sony Pictures said it was disappointed, but respected the decision not to screen the movie and "share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatre-goers."

There had been some speculation that Sony might offer the film for in-home viewing, but a Reuters report quoted a Sony spokeswoman as saying the studio has "no further plans for the film" in response to a question about whether a postponed theatrical release or a video-on demand release might be in the offing.

U.S. theatres weren't the only ones to react — all 17 Rainbow and Magic Lantern Theatres in Toronto cancelled screenings of The Interview during the Christmas holidays, after hackers behind the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment threatened moviegoers with Sept. 11-style attacks.

A spokesperson told CBC News's Ioanna Roumeliotis the cinemas aren't sure whether the decision will be reversed.

The Cineplex website in Canada currently shows no dates for the film.

"After careful consideration of this unprecedented and complex situation, Cineplex Entertainment will postpone presentation of the Sony Pictures movie, The Interview," Par Marshall, Cineplex's VP of communications and investor relations, told CBC News.

"Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their safety and security is our No. 1 priority. We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended."

Variety reports that Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and AMC Entertainment have also dropped their premieres, which along with Cineplex represents four out of five of the top chains in the U.S.

Reuters reported Wednesday evening that it had obtained a memo released by the FBI earlier this week to theatres and other businesses with connections to the film. In the memo, the FBI said "anyone associated with the production, distribution and  promotion" of the film "could possibly become the target of cyberattacks."

Shadowy group

The fallout from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack that began four weeks ago exploded Tuesday after the shadowy group calling themselves Guardians of Peace escalated their attack beyond corporate espionage and threatened moviegoers with violence reminiscent of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even as it announced the cancelling of the theatrical release, the film studio decried the recent hack that revealed reams of information, including emails.

The hackers "sought to destroy our spirit and morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like," the Sony statement said. The company said it stands by its filmmakers "and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The FBI has been looking into the hacking, and several U.S. media outlets cited anonymous sources as saying investigators are prepared to link North Korea to the Sony hack. 

A representative for the film's directors, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, didn't immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday, and neither had posted any reaction to Sony's decision on Twitter.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press