Sony Pictures has cancelled the December 25 release of North Korea comedy "The Interview" after major US cinema chains pulled out of showing the film following threats from hackers.

In a statement made on Wednesday, Sony said it was cancelling "The Interview" release "in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors' concerns.

"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," the statement said.

"We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome".

The movie is a comedy about a TV host (James Franco) and producer (Seth Rogan) who were tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jung-un (Randall Park).

Moviegoers warned

Hackers who claimed responsibility for seizing control and leaking data from Sony's computers last month on Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film, and reminded moviegoers of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Regal Cinemas, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark, the top cinema chains in the US, announced on Wednesday that they were postponing any showings of the film.

Regal said in a statement that it was delaying "The Interview" due to wavering support of the film by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats".

The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents movie theatres across the US, said it was working closely with security and law enforcement agencies and that cinemas may choose not to show the film.

The Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,'' but noted it was still analysing messages from the group.

The warning did prompt law enforcement in New York and Los Angeles to address measures to ramp up security.

The FBI is investigating the identity of the hackers, but suspicion has centred on North Korea, which previously issued warnings over "The Interview".

North Korea has publicly denied it was involved in the hacking.

Source: Agencies