Production begins today on “Route 66: The Main Street of America” documentary

John Paget, director of the award-winning “Route 66: An American Odyssey” film 30 years ago, starts production today in Oklahoma on a new documentary, “Route 66: The Main Street of America.”

The film will be released during Route 66’s centennial in 2026. The documentary recently won designation as an Official U.S. Route 66 Centennial Project.

Principal cinematography begins today at the annual Fried Onion Burger Day Festival in El Reno, Oklahoma.

More details from a news release:

The film will be part of the nationwide Route 66 centennial celebration, with a national PBS broadcast and a screening tour down the historic highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. This special road trip premiere will feature screenings at 26 historic theaters and drive-ins, providing communities along Route 66 an opportunity to connect with their own stories on screen.  

Michael Wallis, author of Route 66: The Mother Road, has collaborated with Paget on previous films and praised his work for capturing the true spirit of the iconic route.  

“It is exciting to join the Paget team once again as we prepare to mark the centennial of Route 66 with a fresh look at the road that served as ‘America’s Main Street,’” said Wallis.

William Thomas, chair of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership and a member of the U.S. Route 66 Centennial Commission, expressed enthusiasm for the film’s unique theatrical release and road trip screening tour, calling it a “gift” for Route 66 communities.

Paget, returning to Route 66 for the first time in many years, reflected on that in an email:

I’m very excited to tell this story again, 30 years later – which seems almost unbelievable.

When I filmed Martin Milner in Return to the Road, it had been about 30 years since his days on the CBS show and that kind of time span seemed unfathomable. Now it is upon me, as I return to the road.  🙂

My experience on Route 66 in the 1990s really shaped my life. It ignited my interest and passion for small towns and main streets, for understanding the forces that threaten them, and how they resist and revitalize.  In some ways, I’ve been telling that same story, in different small towns and in Buffalo, New York, of all places.

(Buffalo is not on Route 66, but you could say it is the Radiator Springs of the Rust Belt!)

What I hope to do in this next film is take a deeper look into the towns and communities along Route 66 … the “civic stories” of these places and the people.  I think they are all special places with stories that can inspire America.

Paget’s “Route 66: An American Odyssey” is practically the first film made after Route 66 began its revival with the publication of Wallis’ best-selling book.

Here’s a grainy trailer for the 1994 film:

Paget also directed “Route 66: Return to the Road with Martin Milner” a few years later. He now is the founder and creative director of First + Main Films.

Both films are available to purchase by DVD or streaming here.

Fans of Route 66 can sign up for behind-the-scenes updates and follow the crew throughout the production.

For more information about First+Main Films and “Route 66: The Main Street of America,” go to

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