Movie News & Reviews

Buried for nearly a century, this Hollywood movie set will soon be displayed on Central Coast

For more than 90 years, the set for Cecil B. DeMille’s silent film “The Ten Commandments” has been buried in the shifting sands of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

Archeologists have been slowly unearthing the set for years, and now the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center is ready to present their latest findings..

The nonprofit organization will unveil a giant, terracotta-colored sphinx head and other treasures at the Sphinx and Drinks gala, auction and artifact debut on July 21.

“It’s already the largest event the Dunes Center has had and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” executive director Doug Jenzen said.

Ten Commandments Guadalupe9485 (1)
Cecil B. DeMille built the “City of the Pharaoh” in the Guadalupe Dunes for his 1923 silent film, “The Ten Commandments.” The former movie set is registered archaeological site, removing items is a felony. David Middlecamp

According to Jenzen, the gala will feature artifacts excavated in October and November 2017, including a 10-foot-tall piece of a plaster sphinx featured in “The Ten Commandments.”

The Egyptian-style movie set, designed by Art Deco designer Paul Iribe, featured 21 five-ton sphinxes, four 35-foot-tall statues of Ramses II and temple gates that towered more than 12 stories tall and 800 feet wide. After filming ended, DeMille abandoned the set, which became known colloquially as the “Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille.”

The Dunes Center’s Sphinx and Drinks gala will have a 1920s theme in connection to the year “The Ten Commandments” was released: 1923.

“We’re going to have a real 1923 Model T on display,” Jenzen said.

Attendees, who are encouraged to wear period-appropriate attire, can dance to the music of The Tipsy Gypsies while munching on hors d’oeuvres and sipping 1920s-themed craft cocktails. Jenzen said the drinks “have been thoroughly researched to be authentic.”

There’s also a live auction featuring prizes ranging from beer and wine to a hike with the archeologists to the site of the buried film set.

Proceeds go toward improving the Dunes Center’s educational programs and community activities. The Dunes Center is also working to convert the former Far Western Tavern, built in 1912, into a museum.

Tickets to the gala cost $75. For more information, visit

Jarod Urrutia: 805-783-7614

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