3:15 PM PT -- U.S. investigators have determined the Sony hackers were working with, or for, North Korea ... according to CNN.
Sony has pulled the plug on the XMAS release of "The Interview," after a number of theater chains bailed.
TMZ broke the story Thursday morning ... Sony execs felt their out was if distributors yanked the film because of safety concerns. That would give Sony an out without directly bending to the hackers.
Sony just released a statement, saying, "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."
The statement goes on, saying, "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 execs are underscoring the distinction between pulling the film because of the distributors rather than out of fear, saying, "We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."