02/03/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
>Park City, Utah
LETTER FROM SUNDANCE
FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THE 13-YEAR-old Sundance Film Festival isn't what it used to be—namely a place for struggling and starving artists to show their wares in hopes of picking up a few art house bookings and maybe a free lunch from a Hollywood producer. The films there are still "independent," at least in the sense that they have no connection to one of the seven major studios. But the names in the credits these days are increasingly A-list—and the deals the indie filmmakers strike with studios to distribute their works can run to eight figures. Last year, Castle Rock paid $10 million for the rights to the drama The Spitfire Grill. As Sundance founder Robert Redford said during the festival, "It's gotten to be a monster—a good monster, but there it is."
This year the trend continues. Among the mainstream stars on the Sundance screen are A Time to Kill costars Sandra Bullock
and Matthew McConaughey
(in Making Sandwiches, a short film she directed), ER's Noah Wyle (in the family drama Myth of the Fingerprints) and Friends' Lisa Kudrow (in the workplace comedy Clockwatchers). Sean Penn, Cathy Moriarty, former Who's the Boss? kid Alyssa Milano and Robert Downey Jr. all appear in Robert Downey Sr.'s absurdist comedy Hugo Pool.
Still, if some of the films feature established stars, rest assured that the 1997 festival has plenty of offbeat material as well. One of the first films picked up (by Miramax for $2 million), The House of Yes, starring Tori Spelling
and produced by her father's company, is the kind of movie that you certainly don't see every day and maybe don't want to—a comedy about incest.