Sony’s Columbia torchbearer has finally pried MGM’s Leo the Lion from his Culver City lair.

MGM’s on-again, off-again home, Filmland, will become the new roost next summer for about 600 to 700 Sony employees now working in Burbank.

The 202,000-square-foot structure sits across the street from Sony Pictures Studios, where 1,400 employees and executives are currently housed. The Sony lot was MGM’s original home.

MGM will begin pulling up stakes next spring and move to Colorado Place in Santa Monica, a 15-acre office campus at the corner of 26th Street and Colorado Avenue to be renamed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Plaza.

As a huge crane pulled down the MGM sign in Culver City over the weekend, the building got a new identity: Sony Pictures Plaza. The move represents yet another phase in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s efforts to turn the area into its global headquarters.

Both studios were mum on the amount SPE is paying for the new lease and the fee to MGM to move out. But several sources indicate the move represents a savings of about $ 25 million to $ 27 million over a 10-year lease for the debt-strapped MGM.

It also marks the third time MGM has relocated in five years.

MGM first moved into the 10000 W. Washington Blvd. address in 1987, when Kirk Kerkorian helmed the operation.

In November 1990, Kerkorian sold it to Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti and before year’s end, MGM ankled Culver City for the old Cannon Pictures/Pathe Communications building at 640 San Vicente in Beverly Hills.

By the fallof 1991, MGM’s huge debt problems under Parretti’s brief reign forced it to forego the costly BevHills address and its new owner Credit Lyonnais wanted to cut any ties to Parretti, who owned the property. MGM headed back to Filmland in September 1991.

Despite the shifts, MGM always retained a history with Culver City. That history spans nearly seven decades, when one of the studio’s founders, Samuel Goldwyn, opened what eventually became the MGM lot on a huge expanse of farmland on April 17, 1924.

Once MGM moves to the Santa Monica development, which was a joint venture between IBM and Maguire Thomas Partners, the six existing buildings will be customized to the studio’s specs.

The MGM new corporate headquarters will include a state-of-the-art screening room to accommodate special events, including premieres; two or three smaller screening rooms for dailies; specially designed areas for independent producers; editing and post-production facilities; an area to service the MGM/UA film library, an existing food court to be renamed the Commissary; a daycare center; a health club; kiosks featuring MGM films; and the MGM Studio Store.

Several independent producers who have pacts with the studio will be provided suites at the plaza.

The new Santa Monica address was one of three locales MGM had been mulling for months (Daily Variety, June 15). Although some perceive it as generally removed from the hub of Hollywood, Santa Monica is also the home to Oliver Stone’s Ixtlan Prods., Ed Zwick/Marshall Herskovitz’s Bedford Falls Prods., George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound and the American Film Foundation, among others.

As for SPE, the move into the current MGM home doesn’t mean it is abandoning Burbank. Exactly who will stay and who will transfer has yet to be determined, said SPE spokesman Peter Wilkes. However, production and administrative personnel will undoubtedly be some of the new tenants.

The deal has no direct bearing on SPE’s continued renovation — or planned expansion — of its 45-acre Sony Pictures Studios, or its 13-acre Culver Studios television headquarters–acquired from the Gannett Corp. for an estimated $ 70 million in August 1991. SPE currently has a proposed comprehensive plan for continued development of its facilities before Culver City’s City Council.

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