By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 08, 2002 01:00 PM

Oscar winner and “Hollywood Squares” center square Whoopi Goldberg will host the 74th Academy Awards on March 24, her fourth such stint in a decade, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said. Goldberg took home an Oscar in 1991 for her supporting role in “Ghost,” and she hosted the ceremony in 1999, 1996 and 1994. Last year, a droll yet elegant Steve Martin stood at the podium — but his sophisticated humor did not translate into high ratings for the television broadcast. Billy Crystal served as host six times during the ’90s. Bob Hope also was a prolific Oscars host, beginning in 1940, the year “Gone with the Wind” swept the awards. This year’s producer, Laura Ziskin, told Variety columnist Army Archerd that Goldberg, 46, is the perfect choice after a year that proved so unfunny in the world. “Whoopi has such warmth and humanity,” Ziskin told the trade paper. Goldberg said in a statement that she is delighted to return as host. She also noted that the ceremony would take place for the first time at the new Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, after years of shifting back and forth between the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center in downtown L.A. (Before that, the ceremonies took place in a number of locations, including the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Roosevelt Hotel banquet room and Grauman’s Chinese and the Hollywood Pantages theaters.) “It’ll be the first broadcast done from Oscar’s new home,” said Goldberg, “and I love a housewarming.” Academy Award nominations are due to be announced Feb. 12.