NEW YORK – Katie Holmes knows how to draw a crowd — including anti-Scientology demonstrators.
Nearly 100 people lined up outside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre Thursday night an hour before Holmes acted on Broadway for the first time in a preview performance for "All My Sons."
Not in the line: roughly 30 Scientology protesters who stood behind a barricade and loudly chanted "Scientology kills!" Some wore masks like in the movie "V for Vendetta," and one poster read: "FREE KATIE."
Moments before the curtain went up, Holmes' husband — and Hollywood's most famous Scientologist — Tom Cruise entered the theater, where he mingled and shook hands with some other theatergoers who took photos and clapped. He then hugged Dustin Hoffman, who was sitting a couple rows away, which drew another cheer inside the theater.
Amid the hubbub, it took awhile for people to take their seats.
Melissa Doyle tried to ignore the ruckus. She said she took her spot in line early, and saw Holmes rush into the theater wearing skinny jeans, a black blazer and oversized sunglasses.
"I love Katie Holmes," the 27-year-old New Yorker said. "I think she's a great actress and right now, I really love her for her fashion, her style! I think she really kind of differentiates herself among young Hollywood. Plus, she's a mom — and I just think she's a really good role model."
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Alistair Savides, visiting from St. Louis, said he wasn't there to see Holmes. He said he's a fan of Arthur Miller's drama, which first played on Broadway in 1947.
"I don't really care about who's performing as long as they're good at what they do and it's a good play," Savides said.
As protesters' chants grew louder, Savides called it "surreal to be right in the middle of this thing. But, you know, there's always two sides to every story and they just really strongly believe in one side of the story. ... If it adds to public debate, maybe that's a good thing."
Cruise's membership in the Church of Scientology has made a controversial target of criticism. And just earlier this year, Jada Pinkett Smith felt compelled to deny her good friend Holmes is a prisoner in her marriage to Cruise, who's been depicted by the tabloids as a controlling husband.
"All My Sons" concerns businessman Joe Keller (John Lithgow) whose factory supplied defective cylinder parts to the military, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots during World War II. Yet it was his business partner who went to jail for the mistake.
Dianne Wiest plays Keller's wife; Patrick Wilson his idealistic son; and Holmes the son's fiancee and daughter of Keller's disgraced partner.
The play officially opens Oct. 16.