The snr1 gene of Drosophila melanogaster encodes a conserved component of the multiprotein Brahma (Brm) complex, a counterpart to the SWI/SNF complexes that participate in ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling. Loss-of-function and null mutations in the snr1 gene reveal its essential role in Drosophila development. We identified new mutant alleles and ectopically expressed deleted forms to dissect the specific functions of SNR1. Somatic and germ cell clone analyses confirmed its requirement in a continuous and widespread fashion for proper cell fate determination and oogenesis. Expression of SNR1 transgenes revealed unexpected roles in wing patterning, abdomen development, oogenesis, and sustained adult viability. A widespread distribution of SNR1 and BRM on the salivary gland polytene chromosomes showed that the Brm complex associated with many genes, but not always at transcribed loci, consistent with genetic data suggesting roles in both gene activation and repression. Despite essential Brm complex functions in leg development, genetic and protein localization studies revealed that snr1 was not required or expressed in all tissues dependent on Brm complex activities. Thus, SNR1 is essential for some, but not all Brm functions, and it likely serves as an optional subunit, directing Brm complex activity to specific gene loci or cellular processes.