The decision flies in the face of recommendations from English Heritage (EH) that the cinema was not of 'listable quality' because it had been 'too extensively' modified.
Jowell's ruling effectively foils plans by Manchester-based developer Empera Estates to build 82 flats on the city centre site, but will delight campaign group Save our Lonsdale which had garnered the support of high-profile names including comedian Ken Dodd and Prince Charles ( Ken Dodd and Prince Charles forge alliance to save cinema ).
Contrary to EH's findings, which found the cinema had been too heavily modernised to warrant any historic protection, the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport felt that the building was worthy of a grade-II listing.
In a statement, Jowell said that it was 'highly likely that, behind the remaining partitions, the vast majority of original features remain.'
Among the most prized features of the cinema are an Italian marble floor, decorated lift doors with stained-glass lozenges set in brass fittings and Art Deco light fixtures.
It is unclear how Empera Estates will proceed, but it is understood the original application for residential units on the plot will have to be withdrawn.